When we think about habits, it is common to only think negatively, such as letting the dishes sit in the sink overnight or staying up looking at social media before bed. However, we have a lot of habits that are positive, and leveraging even the smallest ones toward financial goals can set us up for success.
U.S. Bank Goals Coach Jill Ross says, “There is a reason people say, ‘I’m a creature of habit.’ Habits are like fuzzy blankets, slippers, Sunday coffee at your favorite pastry shop. We wrap ourselves in habits to give us comfort.”
One tip for building habits that is small – but can make a huge difference for your finances – is called habit stacking. Habit stacking pairs something you do regularly with a habit you want to do more. Jill says, “Find a habit that you do at the same frequency and stack your new habit on top of it because we naturally form habits together.”
For example, if you want to remember to take your vitamins, you can pull them out while you fill up your water glass every morning. Or, if your goal is to exercise more, you can pair your daily call with your best friend with a walk around the neighborhood. Pairing a new habit with an existing one will make the new habit more likely to catch on.
When it comes to financial habits, here are a few of our favorites to help you get started.
Pair an existing habit with paying the bills. Jill says, “One of the habits I developed in the military was paying bills and looking at my budget on the first and 15th of every month, since those were my paydays. As my life has evolved and changed, I still have specific bills assigned to those days, and I still check my budget, but now I’ve added vehicle maintenance checks to the first of the month and investment checks to the 15th.”
Checking your credit is a simple and quick way to ensure you’re staying on track. “When my budget clients want to start habit stacking, one of the pairings I recommend is checking credit on toothbrush replacement day. It seems like an odd combination, but I think that’s why it works so well. It’s something that catches your attention, and you tend not to forget what you’re meant to do.”
Coach Jill tip: “Pair opposites like replacing your toothbrush with monthly credit report checks. Because these two habits are so different, it sort of shocks us into remembering to do both.”
Regularly reviewing your budget is a great way to make sure your spending is in line with what you were planning. Think of something you do monthly. If you deep clean your bathroom monthly, consider reviewing your budget while you wait for your towels to wash in the washer.
Do you have a guilty pleasure when it comes to shopping or “treating yourself”? This may be shopping for makeup, buying the current season’s new clothing trends, or spending a day at the salon. For example, if you regularly get your hair done at the salon, set an amount you’ll spend on services that day. Before stepping foot in the salon, put that same amount in your savings. This way, you’re treating yourself now, and setting yourself up for success in the future at the same time.
Coach Jill tip: “Pair the new habit with a habit you already love and do the new one first. This ensures the new habit has a chance to take hold and you have something you love to look forward to.”
Creating new habits can start simple and if you get off track, don’t worry. Find a new way to remind yourself to keep up the positive habit.
Coach Jill says, “Create a vision board or reminder chart as that visual and keep it where you can’t miss seeing it. I also recommend setting a calendar reminder that alerts you one day before and at the time of the event – even when the habit is something you want to do daily.”
To learn more about how you can become more mindful of your spending, work these tips into your daily life.